According to federal officials, grain that was not grown organically was labeled as organic when a Minnesota farmer resold it.
Now the farmer has been charged in federal court with three counts of wire fraud.
Authorities say James Clayton Wolf, 64, of Jeffers, deceived buyers in a “$46 million organic grain fraud scheme.”
Beginning in October 2014 and continuing through at least 2020, court records indicate that the certified organic farmer “repeatedly purchased non-organic corn and soybeans from a grain vendor and resold the grain as biological product”.
Not only was Wolf purchasing non-GMO (non-genetically modified organisms) grain to sell as organic, but he was also doing so without a grain buyer’s license required by law, according to federal prosecutors.
The Cottonwood County farmer is also accused of growing “conventional agricultural crops” — those grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides — and then selling them as organic produce.
“Mr. Wolf is a sixty-five-year-old career farmer who has never been in trouble,” his attorney, Paul Engh, said in a statement to McClatchy News. “He looks forward to the trial and vindication of his reputation.”
Organic crops are grown under “strict protocols” and are more expensive when sold to consumers. For this reason, organic cereals can be sold at a higher price than genetically modified or non-GMO cereals. Officials said most cereals used today are conventional non-GMO, which means the seeds have not been modified and have been grown using chemicals.
By lying to buyers about his falsely labeled grain, authorities say Wolf received more than $46 million from grain buyers. Those buyers wouldn’t have bought grain from him if they knew it wasn’t organic, prosecutors said.
Authorities say some of Wolf’s earnings were directed to a third party, who then spent the money in ways that benefited the farmer.
Wolf’s organic farming certification was revoked in 2020, but court records indicate he continued the program by using an associate to fraudulently sell non-organic crops as organic crops.
He and his associates sent buyers fake documents describing the non-GMO grains as organic, federal prosecutors said.
Wolf is scheduled to make his first appearance in United States District Court on July 22.
Jeffers is about 145 miles southwest of Minneapolis.